Difficult to understand why Norwich City’s Grant Holt and John Ruddy continue to be ignored by England

There was a time, not so long ago, when Ryan Giggs was doing everything in his power to stop his name from being mentioned or written about in newspapers.

If only he could have been as anonymous at Carrow Road on Sunday.

By scoring a stoppage-time winner to condemn Norwich City to a defeat they certainly didn't deserve on his 900th Manchester United appearance, Giggs put his name in the headlines on the back, rather than the front, pages. He also compelled me, by way of a bitter but minor act of revenge, to start this week's column with a passing reference to some of his recent tabloid adventures.

Enough has been written about Giggs' notable landmark (the one on the pitch, I mean) since Sunday and the way his winning goal was celebrated by Sir Alex Ferguson and his assorted coaching staff showed they knew how fortunate they had been after another impressive Premier League display from Paul Lambert's team.

Grant Holt's brilliant goal was worthy of winning, never mind clinching a point, in any match. He's a man on top of his game at the moment and it's becoming more and more difficult to understand why he and goalkeeper John Ruddy continue to be ignored for England selection.

In the unlikely event that Stuart Pearce stumbles across this article he would probably dismiss this as a bit of over-enthusiastic flag waving from a man who watches football through yellow and green glasses, but the evidence really does stack up in their favour.

Holt now has 10 Premier League goals this season. Wayne Rooney is the only Englishman to have scored more, and he's out injured for the Holland game Wednesday night. Frank Lampard, a midfielder, and the Swansea forward Danny Graham are the only other Englishmen on double figures in terms of top-flight goals this season.

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Darren Bent is also injured and that leaves Chelsea's Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck of Manchester United and Sunderland's Frazier Campbell as the only out-and-out strikers in the squad. A lot of people point at Holt's age as the main reason for his failure to successfully nudge the England selectors this season, but, apart from the fact that it's depressing to think that anyone could be too old to do anything at 30, maybe that bit of extra know-how is what England have been missing.

For as long as I remember England have been building for the future. The emphasis is always on bringing hot young talent through the under-21 squad. It's a future that never seems to actually arrive. While the search for the next big thing intensifies the here-and-now seems to have been forgotten.

One of the great advantages of international football over the club game is that managers don't have to make great commitments to players in the shape of long-term contracts knowing that they could fail to reach their potential. If England bosses worried less about the modern buzzword of having a 'project' and picked players who were bang in form we might just get somewhere. Well, we couldn't do much worse could we?

The argument for Holt's international inclusion goes beyond goals.

Ask any defender who has tried to stop him over the last three seasons and I am sure they would tell you there's more to his game than just sticking the ball in the net. If anybody could appreciate his never-say-die, heart-on-the-sleeve approach to football you would think it would be Pearce.

Let's also not forget that Jay Bothroyd, now of QPR, got an England cap last season. He was playing in the Championship for Cardiff City at the time and managed to force his way in. If he can do it then Holt wearing a shirt with three lions on really shouldn't be considered as something from the realms of Fantasy Football.

Ruddy's case for a call-up is even more clear. He has had an impressive season, playing regularly for the side that is eighth in the Premier League.

Other than the obvious exception of Joe Hart at Premier League leaders Manchester City, the only English goalkeepers who are first choice at any of the Premier League clubs are Paul Robinson of Blackburn and West Brom's Ben Foster, both of whom have officially retired from international football.

Norwich fans know that Robert Green is a good goalkeeper, but he's playing in the Championship these days and yet Green and Scott Carson, who is with a Turkish team, have been preferred to Norwich's number one.

With Wes Hoolahan out in the cold as far as the Republic of Ireland squad is concerned it's becoming hard not to develop a complex about our boys' international snub.

On the bright side, at least they are where they are appreciated and where Paul Lambert can wrap them up in cotton wool during the week.

As much as they may deserve to be called up by their countries I wouldn't want anyone else but Norwich City to get the benefits of their brilliance.


Manchester United's visit on Sunday failed to capture everybody's imagination. As I arrived at the ground a couple of hours before the game a sizeable crowd had gathered to await the arrival of United's team bus.

In amongst them was a car. One driver, at some point over the weekend, appeared to have happened upon Carrow Road, by which I mean the actual road and not the stadium, and thought 'Ah! This looks like a good place to park'.

The signs in the area talked of parking restrictions of two hours from Monday-Saturday, so where better to leave your motor and head for a Saturday night out in the city or some Sunday morning shopping?

This driver was clearly no football fan and the signs at the end of the road about a 'forthcoming event' on Sunday, Februray 26 hadn't hit home. Leaving your car outside the Players' Entrance on a match day isn't a wise move, unless you don't mind it being swamped by supporters hoping for a glimpse of the champions.

Word quickly got round that Wayne Rooney had not been among those getting off the team bus. A throat infection was the official reason given for his absence. I wondered out loud last week whether it might be possible for someone of that calibre to play on, as his feet presumably will not have been affected. One BBC Radio Norfolk listener immediately texted the station to suggest Rooney may not be able to play his natural game in that state. It's hard to argue with the referee when you've lost your voice.